Encouragement

Triumphing in Everything We Challenge

SGI Spring Training Course Report

SGI representatives from Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and the United States visit Soka University as part of the SGI Spring Training Course, Hachioji, Japan, April 27. Photo: Cathy Kume.


by David Witkowski
SGI-USA YOUTH LEADER

Embraced by a sea of cherry blossoms in full bloom, 18 SGI-USA representatives touched down in Tokyo, Japan, to attend the SGI Spring Training Course from April 12–17, together with members from 55 countries. During this training course, we learned of SGI President Ikeda’s recent activities, including how he and Mrs. Ikeda are traveling tirelessly throughout Tokyo to encourage the members. In addition, we heard guidance from President Ikeda and SGI leaders regarding the significance of our mission for kosen-rufu during this most significant time, while establishing great friendships with SGI members from around the world.

President Ikeda and Mrs. Ikeda have been visiting members, Soka Gakkai centers and the Soka schools nearly every day to inspire the members and create waves of victory for kosen-rufu into the distant future.

In March and April, their visits included the:

• Young Women’s Center, where they encouraged women’s and young women’s representatives;

• Soka Gakkai center in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where they encouraged Gajokai[1]Gajokai is a young men’s behind-the-scenes training group dedicated to serving the members and ensuring their safety by supporting the daily operations of SGI-USA community centers, including opening and closing the facilities, and conducting security checks. members on shift;

• Tachikawa Culture Center, where President Ikeda stayed for an extended period following his resignation in 1979;[2]On April 24, 1979, Daisaku Ikeda stepped down as third Soka Gakkai president to protect the members from the machinations of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which sought to wrest control of the lay organization in a perverse, failed bid for power over the burgeoning laity. and

• Toda International Center, where he and Mrs. Ikeda warmly greeted and encouraged five senior women’s division representatives from the SGI-USA.[3]See the report in the May 3, 2017, World Tribune, pp. 6–7.

During the training course, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada relayed a recent message in which President Ikeda cited the following passage from the Lotus Sutra:

Because living beings have different natures, different desires, different actions, and different ways of thinking and making distinctions, and because I want to enable them to put down good roots, I employ a variety of causes and conditions, similes, parables, and phrases and preach different doctrines. This, a Buddha’s work, I have never for a moment neglected.[4]The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 267.

President Ikeda then shared second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s explanation on this passage, writing: “The Buddha is stating that he has not neglected the Buddha’s work and that’s why he can’t rest. That is why I continue to dedicate my life to kosen-rufu and continue to write in the Seikyo Shimbun [the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper].” President Ikeda concludes, “I, too, am following in the footsteps of Mr. Toda and continue to write in the Seikyo Shimbun every day.”

Not only is Sensei writing daily, at 89 years old, he is fighting each day like a lion. In the same message, he also said: “My wife and I will continue to deepen our faith and strengthen our determination even more. I will continue to write, pray and engage in activities even more. Let’s continue to fight boldly and resolutely. Let’s be in complete unity so we can triumph in everything we challenge.”

Engraving the Five Eternal Guidelines of the Soka Gakkai in Our Hearts

During the training course, SGI Study Department Leader Masaaki Morinaka gave a lecture on the Soka Gakkai’s Five Eternal Guidelines, based on President Ikeda’s five-part study lecture (which appeared in Living Buddhism from the October 2016 to February 2017 issues).

Mr. Morinaka emphasized that finalizing these guidelines was a shared struggle of mentor and disciple. Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda established the first three guidelines in December 1957 after achieving his lifelong goal of introducing 750,000 families to the Soka Gakkai. Then, in 2003, President Ikeda added two more guidelines, which together compose the Soka Gakkai’s Five Eternal Guidelines. They are:

1. Faith for a harmonious family. From this guideline, we learn that the first step to world peace is to cherish those closest to us.

Mr. Morinaka mentioned three points for actualizing this guideline: 1. Strive to be a bright, sunny presence in your family; 2. Recognize that family bonds are eternal; and 3. Foster successors for kosen-rufu in your family. He said that while, at times, it may seem easier to care for people far removed from us and difficult to chant and care for our family, this challenge constitutes the essence of Buddhist practice.

2. Faith for achieving happiness. We practice Buddhism in order to become happy. Mr. Morinaka shared six conclusions regarding the Buddhist view of happiness: 1. Living itself is an irrepressible joy; 2. We were born to enjoy life; 3. Those who suffer the most will enjoy the greatest happiness; 4. SGI activities empower us to accumulate treasures of the heart; 5. True happiness is when oneself and others together become happy; and 6. We must never build our happiness on the unhappiness of others.

3. Faith for overcoming obstacles. Nichiren Daishonin states in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings: “Concerning the ‘peaceful’ practices of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law and the practices carried out by Nichiren and his followers now in the Latter Day of the Law, you should understand that, when one practices the Lotus Sutra under such circumstances, difficulties will arise, and these are to be looked on as [peace and comfort]” (p. 115).

Mr. Morinaka explained that “peace” means to have faith that is unshaken by obstacles and “comfort” means to live without fear or regret. When obstacles arise, it is easy to think: Why is this happening to me after all the efforts I’ve been making? But, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a lion’s roar, we derive meaning from our obstacles and can powerfully overcome them. Ultimately, it is precisely because the higher the mountains of obstacles, the more spectacular the view, that we can transform difficulties into true “peace and comfort.”

4. Faith for health and long life. In his writing “On Prolonging One’s Life Span,” Nichiren writes: “Life is the most precious of all treasures. Even one extra day of life is worth more than ten million ryo of gold” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 955).

Mr. Morinaka explained that we all desire health and long life, and can certainly prolong our lives with faith. There are times, however, when practitioners pass away at a young age. This does not equate to losing in faith. Rather, if we fight until that last moment of our lives, we are victorious regardless of how many years we live.

He then shared three points regarding this guideline:

1. One day of life is an opportunity to create boundless fortune;

2. Even if one is sick, each day is an opportunity to accumulate more treasures of the heart; and

3. True health means to strive with a youthful spirit. In the world of faith, there is no aging, illness or death of the spirit!

5. Faith for absolute victory. In “Those Initially Aspiring to the Way,” Nichiren writes, “Three things are required—a good teacher, a good believer, and a good teaching—before prayers can be effective and disasters banished from the land” (WND-1, 880). The key to victory is to be one in spirit with one’s mentor. Why is this the final guideline? Unless we are victorious, we cannot fully achieve the first four guidelines. If we advance based on the oneness of mentor and disciple and the unity of “many in body, one in mind,” we will never be defeated and are guaranteed to achieve victory in both kosen-rufu and life.

Establish an Eternal Foundation of Mentor and Disciple by Advancing Each Day

On the final day of the training course, we attended a Q&A session with President Harada. One participant asked how to inspire members who have not attended SGI activities in a while. President Harada responded that there are many ways to encourage, since each person has different interests and hobbies. It is important to know the interests of the members and to engage them based on their interests. For example, he relayed the story of one leader who had been trying to inspire a member to reignite his Buddhist practice. The leader learned that the man loved fishing. He read a book about fishing so that he could talk about the subject. The next time they met, the member’s eyes lit up at the discussion, and they developed a strong bond. This member has since become a strong district leader.

Another participant asked how to establish an eternal foundation of mentor and disciple in our respective countries. President Harada explained that it is important to set concrete goals and strengthen our faith as we take action to advance those goals. We must chant for our goals, introduce people to Buddhism and raise members into great leaders. Through these daily, basic activities, we are able to establish a foundation of mentor and disciple.

In addition, he encouraged us to read the installments from volume 30 of The New Human Revolution (currently bring serialized in the World Tribune). This volume contains far-reaching guidance about the essence of mentor and disciple and the Soka Gakkai spirit.

From this training course, the SGI-USA representatives were deeply moved by Sensei’s constant encouragement, and determined to work even harder for American kosen-rufu together with him. We developed unshakable conviction that we will achieve our goal of gathering 50,000 youth in 2018 as long as we advance based on the oneness of mentor and disciple and the unity of “many in body, one in mind.”

 

(pp. 24–27)

Notes   [ + ]

1. Gajokai is a young men’s behind-the-scenes training group dedicated to serving the members and ensuring their safety by supporting the daily operations of SGI-USA community centers, including opening and closing the facilities, and conducting security checks.
2. On April 24, 1979, Daisaku Ikeda stepped down as third Soka Gakkai president to protect the members from the machinations of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which sought to wrest control of the lay organization in a perverse, failed bid for power over the burgeoning laity.
3. See the report in the May 3, 2017, World Tribune, pp. 6–7.
4. The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 267.